Beluga: A Farewell to Whales

Pierre Beland, Author
Pierre Beland, Author Lyons Press $25 (224p) ISBN 978-1-55821-398-2
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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According to the author, the St. Lawrence population of beluga (white) whales is doomed because of pollution; they have the highest incidence of cancer of any marine mammal, higher even than humans. Beland, a senior research scientist at the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology who has studied these whales for more than a dozen years, has made numerous necropsies, finding high levels of mercury, organohalogens and PCBs. The belugas are the remnant of a large population that was heavily exploited for 300 years. Given legal protection in 1979, only about 500 animals remain. Beland tells an intriguing story of belugas trained for underwater spying by both the U.S. and Russian navies; they are superior to dolphins in target detection and easier to train. One Russian whale escaped from its pen near Sebastopol and made its way to the Turkish coast, where it became a local attraction. Beland tells us that there are about 50 recorded belugas in captivity worldwide, most of them originating in the Churchill river estuary of Canada's Hudson Bay. This is important reading for those concerned about the environment. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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